Why the Gospel Doesn’t Oppose Social Justice

Charles Holmes Jr.

The Gospel Narrative

The Gospel is a message about love and justice. The irony is that we are undeserving of the former. We are only deserving of God’s wrath, because we have sinned against a good and holy God and have attempted to defame His glory. Paul teaches us in Romans 1 that we have traded the immortal and beautiful glory of God for images of man. Sheer idolatry. For this, we are deserving of God’s wrath, but it was poured out on Christ. Justice was served on Calvary through the marring of Jesus, so that God could properly punish sin, and so exalt Himself and display mercy without compromise.

Through this sacrifice of grace, justice is still displayed. Sin had to be punished, and it was. But not by any human means. God’s justice was simultaneously a conduit of mercy for the lost.

Why Social Justice is Important

As we see, justice is part of the very nature of our God. When opportunities for social justice arise, believers should be leading the way because of what we have experienced in the Gospel.  Social justice can be misinterpreted by the church due to a lack of compassion and knowledge on the subject. As part of the church, it is my desire that we direct people to a perfectly just judge who will judge the earth for the good of His people and the glory of His name.

In the realm of social justice, many times the church looks on with hesitance to be bold for the voiceless, neglected, and broken. Over the past few years, we have seen the awareness of social injustices in our world heighten. As witnesses of these injustices, the church cannot afford to become timid in our response to these wicked atrocities. Our response will have an effect on how people view the message of the Gospel and how people view and see Jesus.

No matter the injustice, whether poverty, abortion, or racism, the church must be the voice of God in our culture. If we have experienced the justification of God through the person and work of Jesus, then we must have compassion and love on those who are the victims of injustices.

Social Justice and the Christian Approach

Social injustices aren’t just problems with systems, but are theological issues as well. The mistreatment of human beings made in the image of God is an issue of human value and worth. In Genesis 9, God shows us that because we are created in the image of God, both humans and animals are held accountable for the killing of other humans. The extent of our value stems from the very nature of God. When injustice happens, the biblical truth that all of mankind are image bearers of God is attacked. As believers in Christ, we hold to the fact that we are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

This Gospel truth, coupled with the reality that we have been justified and declared righteous because of Jesus should compel our hearts to seek to bring forth justice on the earth. Through social justice, we point to the coming perfect judge who died and rose from the grave to redeem and reconcile sinners to God, all while standing up for the oppressed.

Faith in Jesus is not a faith that does nothing, but a faith that empowers action for the glory of God and good of humanity. Sadly, we are sometimes seen more as the moral police than caretakers of the sick and hurting. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus rebukes this kind of attitude, “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.” We see the heart of God is that our Gospel commissions good works, that people may see and glorify God. (Matthew 5:16).

Religion should never been seen as a social club that has regulations of how to get and fit in, but true Christian religion, as explained by James, should be a religion that cares for those in need. “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27).

If we are involved in religious activity, but lack compassion and mercy towards people in need, then our religious activity is a waste and a mockery of the very religion we claim to believe and practice. True Gospel belief should produce compassion and love in us for those oppressed by injustice.

The heart of God bends towards the needy and dependent, and so should ours. We once were alienated from God, but God had compassion on us. As we seek to be conformed to the image of God, we should be having compassion on the vulnerable. In our communities and to our neighbors, let’s seek justice by doing good deeds, declaring justification through faith, and hoping and proclaiming in the coming perfect Judge Jesus Christ.

1 Comment

  1. Alan Harris

    This is a great article. First, thank you for providing an articulate, theologically sound yet practical article regarding the Gospel and Social Justice. Secondly, thank you for challenging us as believers to take part in social justice efforts. This is an article I pray will be read by many, as many need to be both informed and challenged regarding the issues you addressed!

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